Saturday, November 28, 2015

Belmar pays $15,000 to settle suit by DPW laborer who claimed he was canned for reporting on the job drug use.

On June 3, 2015, the Borough of Belmar (Monmouth County) agreed to pay $15,000 to a Department of Public Works laborer who said he was fired because he had reported on the job alcohol and drug use by other DPW employees.

In his suit, Gregory Vasil, who claimed that Belmar hired him despite his former substance abuse issues, became concerned in July 2013 when he saw other DPW employees working on the McCleary Park boardwalk project "openly using illegal controlled dangerous substances and consuming alcohol on the job."  Since he was in recovery at the time, Vasil claimed to have feared for "his own personal safety and sobriety."

Instead of reporting what he saw to Belmar officials, Vasil said that he called the head of the National Emergency Grant program that provided funding for the McCleary Park boardwalk project.  He said that his report forced Belmar to shut down the project and drug test all the employees.  Vasil claimed that four employees were fired after testing positive for illegal substances.

Vasil claimed that he was fired one day after making his report.  He claimed Borough officials were upset with him reporting the drug and alcohol use because it required the Borough "to spend money to shut down the job and drug test the employees at the project."

The case is captioned Vasil v. Borough of Belmar et al, Monmouth County Superior Court Docket No. MON-L-2642-14 and Vasil's attorney was Mark F. Casazza of Hazlet.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Vasil's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $15,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Belmar or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Belmar or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Vasil $15,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.